A Unique Pairing in Jericho03/25/2022 01:29PM ● By Phyl Newbeck
Caffeine and alcohol are two things that don’t often go together. However, at Jericho Ale & Bean, a new store on Route 15 in Jericho, patrons can purchase beverages with those ingredients, albeit in different containers.
After over 30 years at the helm of the Jericho General Store, Mel Mitchell closed up shop and sold the building. The new occupants are Lucy & Howe Brewing and Brew House Coffee Company. The two businesses combined their efforts to create Jericho Ale & Bean, which opened on January 14. The store is currently open from 9am to 6pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Jay Wimette of Brew House Coffee Company opens the store in the morning, and Jesse Cronin of Lucy & Howe arrives later for the afternoon shift.
Jesse, his wife Libby Bonesteel, and Jay and his wife Dena formed an umbrella company called Simply Jericho, LLC to purchase the building. Libby is the superintendent of the Montpelier Roxbury School District, and Dena is the head of innovation for Ben & Jerry’s, but the two women quite involved in their respective companies. Jesse credits Libby for providing assistance with setting long-term goals while Dena helps on the artistic side of the business and created the store’s logo.
The two men have known each other since their sons—now teenagers—were in preschool together. “We’ve been kicking this idea around for a while,” Jay says. When the store’s for-sale sign first appeared about a year and a half ago, they considered making the purchase, but the price was too high. Over dinner at the Wimette home, the two men revisited the idea when the price went down. “After that, it just snowballed,” Jay says.
Brewing up a Change
Established in 2019, Brew House Coffee is the older of the two businesses. Jay says he started brewing roughly nine years ago when Dena couldn’t tolerate the acidity of traditionally brewed coffee. “Cold brew is a little smoother, sweeter, and less acidic,” he says. “We kept it to ourselves for a while, but people tried it and liked it.” The business started as a subscription service, followed by a presence at farmers markets. Last year, the Jericho Center Country Store asked to carry the coffee, and now it is also available at a number of natural food markets in medicinal-style brown bottles. In addition to the regular dark roast, there is a Vermont-style roast with a touch of maple syrup, and maple and honey lattes.
A former teacher, Jesse studied European beer culture when he and Libby lived in Vienna. He stayed home when the couple’s two children were young, but once they started school, he left teaching for a part-time job at Four Quarters Brewing and then Magic Hat. The pandemic sent him back home, and he started Lucy & Howe Brewing in May of 2020. The name is based on his daughter Lena’s mishearing the name of Lucien Howe, the man who owned the home in the 1850s. While the company focuses on Belgian-inspired ales, Jesse likes to brew a variety of other beers, including lagers, stouts, IPAs, the occasional sour beer, and beers with seasonal ingredients like strawberries or spruce tips.
Local Roots Run Deep
Recognizing that the storefront they occupy has been around for almost 120 years, the two men hope to preserve the character of the former establishment. “It’s important to maintain the spirit of the community,” Jesse says. “We’ll use modern materials and energy efficiency standards but try to retain the look and feel of the building.” Jay notes that both businesses advertise their Jericho roots. “Our products show we’re from Jericho, and we’re very proud of that,” he says. “We appreciate the history of the town.”
Eyes on the Horizon
Plans to seat 23 people with in-house coffee service and beer tasting with meat and cheese boards are in the works, but additional renovations will be needed. After those changes are complete, Jericho Ale & Bean will open at 7am so people can pick up coffee on the way to work, and they will increase the number of days they are open, potentially hiring additional employees. “This has been the easy part,” Jay says. “We’re excited to be able to eventually provide employment in the community.” Jesse is also considering moving his brewing operation the tenth of a mile from his home to the building, and the two men are entertaining thoughts about what to do with the unoccupied second floor.
For now, the partners are happy to have their businesses and beverages coexist. “Given how close our families have become over the last decade and a half, I am not only excited to work side-by-side with Jesse but also share this experience as a larger, extended family with our wives and kids,” Jay says. “This truly feels special.” Jesse couldn’t agree more. “Sometimes one finds a career built around a passion and, if they are lucky, an accompanying family of like-minded folks,” he says. “We were fortunate enough to be able to go about it the other way: our family of like-minded folks found a way to our very own career built around a passion for good beverages made for good people.”
Jericho Ale & Bean